As had been predicted Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that the new head of the MTA will be Joseph Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Giuliani and current executive at Madison Square Garden. He'll be replacing current Chairman Jay Walder, who is leaving to seek his fortunes in Hong Kong. In addition to Lhota, Cuomo is also appointing Nuria Fernandez, a transit exec who's worked in Chicago and DC, as the Administration's chief operating officer, the second-highest position there not to mention Karen Rae as his new deputy secretary of transportation. And people seem okay with the choices!

"Joseph Lhota will execute the Governor’s policies and run the system that is the engine of the region’s economy," said Transportation Alternative's executive Paul Steely White. "To succeed, Joseph Lhota must continue Jay Walder’s commitment to transit riders. With the MTA facing a $9.9 billion gap in its capital budget, New Yorkers want an MTA Chair will ensure that elected officials increase the funding needed to maintain the public transit system and prevent further fare hikes and service cuts."

White's opinion was mirrored over at the Straphangers Campaign, which put out a release saying, "Millions of riders will be looking to Mr. Lhota to maintain and improve the quality of service and to work to keep fares affordable. They also want a vocal and visible advocate for the subways, buses and commuter rail, one who will speak up if the budget cuts are hurting service."

Which is to say, people seem willing to give Lhota, who did lots of cost cutting while working for Giuliani, the benefit of the doubt. Especially considering the financial situation the MTA is in. One good sign? Assuming that he is approved by the state Senate, Lhota will start "within a month" (with Vice Chairman Andrew Saul running the agency in the interim) and will make $332,500 a year (a five percent reduction from the $350,000 that Walder was making).

Finally, just in case you'd forgotten, here's the basic info on Lhota:

He's an executive vice president at Madison Square Garden, and was also deputy mayor of operations from 1998 to 2001. When he was budget director, Lhota was in charge of managing the city's $36 billion operating budget and $45 billion capital budget, so he's not unfamiliar with an operation the size of the MTA. Lhota, a trustee at CUNY, also had a career in the private sector before working for Giuliani. He spent 15 years working as an investment banker at PaineWebber and CS First Boston (with a specialization in public finance).

Good luck Mr. Lhota, you are going to need it!